Germany–Netherlands football rivalry

Germany–Netherlands football rivalry
Two German fans wave their flag at a group of Dutch supporters during EURO 2008 in Basel.

The football rivalry between Germany and the Netherlands is one of the few longstanding football rivalries at a national level. Beginning in 1974 when the Dutch lost the 1974 FIFA World Cup to West Germany in the final (though deeply rooted in Dutch anti-German sentiment due to the occupation of the Netherlands by Germany during the Second World War) the rivalry between the two nations has become one of the best known international football rivalries in the world.[1]

Both belong to the strongest football nations of the world, and have met a total of 37 times (of which only 9 matches were competitive) which resulted in 13 victories for Germany, 10 for the Netherlands and 14 draws.




For the Dutch, the origins of the rivalry are primarily based on the anti-German sentiment resulting from World War II in which, during a five-year German occupation, a quarter of a million Dutch people died and the country itself was devastated. In particular, matches up until 1988 show a strong emotional connection between war experiences alongside the sportive element among the Dutch, but inevitably this has lessened with the passage of time.

"I didn't give a damn about the score. 1-0 was enough, as long as we could humiliate them. I hate them. They murdered my family. My father, my sister, two of my brothers. Each time I faced Germany I was angst-filled."[2]
—Wim van Hanegem (b. 1944), Dutch midfielder

When Germany and the Netherlands met in the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup (which was also their first competitive match since 1945) the Dutch, despite being strong favorites, lost to the Germans which resulted in a national trauma which is poetically referred to as "De moeder aller nederlagen" ("The mother of all defeats") in Dutch.

The loss of the 1974 final was a source of great bitterness among the Dutch and it would not be until 1988 (when the Dutch beat the Germans and went on to become the new European Champions) that the public pressure on the Dutch team to be successful relaxed somewhat. The two competitive matches which would take place before the latter were notoriously aggressive, and created a lot of pressure on both sides. The 1980 match would see Toni Schumacher and Huub Stevens fighting on field, whereas René van de Kerkhof would go on to punch Bernd Schuster in the eye.

"The pressure was tremendous. The popular press was blowing up the old rivalry. We knew that on the pitch the Dutch were ready and waiting for us. We had to stay focused. I think it's a true shame and pity that they regard football as an outlet for their hatred from the Second World War."[3]
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (b. 1955), German striker on the 1978 FIFA World Cup match
"Before the game we knew that it was going to be tense. We had sworn to win, because that victory was so important to our sense of pride. To them, beating us is the best thing there is. They hate us so much more than we hate them."[3]
—Karl-Heinz Förster (b. 1958), German midfielder on the UEFA Euro 1980 match

During the semi-final of the UEFA Euro 1988, the Dutch defeated Germany (the host country) 2-1 with a goal by Marco van Basten in the very last minute of the game. After the game Ronald Koeman of the Dutch national team pretended to wipe his backside with Olaf Thon's jersey, creating outrage in Germany.

The Dutch proceeded to win the final against the Soviet Union. When the team returned to the Netherlands and were celebrated in the capital Amsterdam, headcoach Rinus Michels stood in front of the Dutch Royal Palace and said to the crowd: "We won the tournament, but we all know that the semi-final was the real final".

The Netherlands exploded into a mass celebration. As the Dutch team returned home they were paraded through the canals of Amsterdam as people jumped in the water and swam towards the players to congratulate them.

"I had been waiting for that moment for fourteen years. Before the game I remembered my feelings watching TV as a teenager, and that boosted up my anger. I am happy to have been able to give this gift to the older generation, the ones that lived through the War."[3]
Hans van Breukelen (b. 1956), Dutch goalkeeper on the UEFA Euro 1988 match
"We gave joy to the older generation. I saw their emotions, their tears."[3]
Ruud Gullit (b. 1962), Dutch striker on the UEFA Euro 1988 match

Following the 1988 match, anti-German sentiment became much less prominent among the Dutch, as defeating the Germans and going on to win the cup, in Germany itself, was to many the closest they would ever come to repaying Germany. It also marked a new phase in the rivalry because with the war-related sentiment lessened on the Dutch side, the Germans now as a consequence also became far more vocal about the football rivalry, which they had avoided previously. The rivalry continued, but the tone (though still highly competitive) became less aggressive.[4]


In 1990 both teams met again during the second round of the World Cup. This match is seen as the main catalyst for the modern German-Dutch rivalry, in which both Germany and the Netherlands enthusiastically participate.

Before kick-off the Dutch supporters shouted down the Deutschlandlied with boos and the Germans replied by chanting "Deutschland! Deutschland!" during the playing of Het Wilhelmus. The game that followed was notable for its many fouls and other incidents. After Rudi Völler had been hacked down by Frank Rijkaard, who was subsequently booked, Rijkaard spat in Völler's hair. After the following free kick, Völler and the Dutch keeper van Breukelen had contact, both trying to get the ball, and van Breukelen and Rijkaard shouted at Völler and Rijkaard pulled Völler's hair. The referee sent both Rijkaard and Völler off, and Rijkaard spat in Völler's hair a second time when both players left the pitch. Germany won the match 2-1 and went on to win the tournament and become World Champions.[5]

In 1992 the Dutch beat Germany 3-1 during the group stage of the 1992 European Championship. The last competitive match between the two nations, during the group stages of the 2004 European Championship in Portugal, ended in a 1-1 draw.

Competitive record

Final, 1974 FIFA World Cup

July 7, 1974
Netherlands  1 – 2  West Germany Munich, Olympiastadion
Attendance: 75,200
Referee: Jack Taylor (England)
Neeskens 2' pen Breitner 25' pen
Müller 43'

Second group stage, 1978 FIFA World Cup

June 18, 1978
West Germany  2 – 2  Netherlands Córdoba, Estadio Chateau Carreras
Ref: Gordon (Scotland)
Attendance: 25,050
Abramczik 3'
D. Müller 70'
(Report) Haan 27'
R. van de Kerkhof 84'

Group stages UEFA Euro 1980

June 14, 1980
West Germany  3 – 2  Netherlands Stadio San Paolo, Naples

Ref: Robert Wurtz (France)
Attendance: 26,546

Allofs 20', 60', 65' Rep (p) 79'
van de Kerkhof 85'

Semi Final, UEFA Euro 1988

June 21, 1988
West Germany  1 – 2  Netherlands Volksparkstadion, Hamburg
Attendance: 61,330
Referee: Ioan Igna (Romania)
Matthäus (p) 55' R. Koeman (p) 74'
van Basten 88'

Second round, 1990 FIFA World Cup

June 24, 1990
West Germany  2 – 1  Netherlands Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan

Ref: Juan Loustau (Argentina)
Attendance: 74,559

Klinsmann 51'
Brehme 82'
R. Koeman 89' pen

Group stages UEFA Euro 1992

June 18, 1992
Netherlands  3 – 1  Germany Nya Ullevi, Göteborg

Ref: Pierluigi Pairetto (Italy)
Attendance: 37,725

Rijkaard 4'
Witschge 15'
Bergkamp 72'
Klinsmann 53'

Group stages UEFA Euro 2004

June 15, 2004
Netherlands  1 – 1  Germany Estádio do Dragão, Porto

Ref: Anders Frisk (Sweden)
Attendance: 48,197

Van Nistelrooy 81' Frings 30'

In popular culture

News papers;

  • After the German national team was eliminated at the FIFA 2010 World Cup, the German tabloid BILD published an article suggesting that Germans should now support the Dutch team (which they referred to as "Bundesrepublik Holland") because a number of Dutch players played for German clubs, mainly FC Bayern Munich. The article was subsequently picked up by several Dutch news papers and was met with disdain and laughter, the Telegraaf opening with "When lacking own talent ..." when discussing the BILD-article.[6]


  • The Dutch Voetbal Experience museum in Middelburg has one of its 18 permanent exhibitions dedicated to the German-Dutch football rivalry, with tours available in Dutch as well as German and English.
    • A Dutch poem on the 1974 defeat called 'De moeder aller nederlagen' can be found on the museum wall. The last line reads `Wij waren de beste, maar zij waren beter´ ('We were the best, but they were better').

In television;

  • In an episode of the Dutch history series Andere Tijden on the 1988 European Championship, which the Dutch won, a shot can be seen of an overpass near the Dutch-German border which reads, in German, "You are now entering the country of the European Champions".
  • In a 2010 episode of Voetbal Insite, a Dutch football show, a clip is shown in which people are being interviewed on the streets and asked what they think the Dutch team should do in order to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup. After a while a (Dutch) man is shown who happily declares his "complete support" for the German national team, after which the clip stops and the presenters of the show are shown laughing uncontrolably.[7]
  • When Germany lost the semi-final of the Fifa 2010 World Cup to Spain; thereby ruling out a possible final between the Netherlands and Germany, various Dutch news programs happily broadcast several clip shows of German fans crying. Similarly, when the Netherlands were subsequently defeated by Spain in the final, German news programs were not slow to show Dutch fans in tears.

During the 1990s and 2000s a lot of adverts appeared, at first on Dutch television later also on German networks, which referenced the Dutch-German football rivalry. Including;

  • A Sport Select ad, in which a Dutch couple in a caravan overtakes an elderly German woman on the German Autobahn, after which both cars start ramming each other.[8]
  • A Heineken ad, in which a mock press conference is given by a German official who presents the 'ultimate weapon' against a string of Dutch fan ware.[9]
  • A NUON ad, in which a Dutch fan accidentally spills his drink on a German fan, ruining his T-shirt. The Dutch fan then offers his own (black) shirt to the German as a compensation, which the German fan accepts. During the match the German is cheering violently, turning his shirt (being sentitive to body heat) orange.[10]
  • A Histor (Dutch paint brand) ad, in which a British 'wall whisperer' (Barrie Hall) concludes that the walls in the South African 2010 FIFA World Cup stadiums (all painted orange) are 'happy'. As he leaves it is revealed the room painted belongs to the German National Team.[11]
  • A Sportwetten (German betting site) ad, in which a German and a Dutch fan walk past each other and the German fan spits in the Dutchmans hair.[12] This was based on the notorious attack on Rudi Voller by Frank Rijkaard at the 1990 World Cup.
  • In 2000, a Dutch TV commercial, in reference to the infamous spitting incident, shows Voller and Rijkaard both wearing bathrobes, having breakfast together, suggesting the taste of butter is so good it gets the worlds most bitter rivals together. Rijkaard later declared in an interview that both he and Voller decided to be part of the commercial considering 10 years had passed since the incident and it was time to bury the hatchet.
  • A Bosch ad, in which a German couple is overtaken by a car full of Dutch fans who mock him. The German keeps up with the Dutch car, but then suddenly breaks off. The Dutch fans celebrate only to be caught in a speed trap.[13]

A number of novelty songs have also been written, these include;

  • "Wir sind die Höllender" by De Toppers. A 2006 song, sung partly in mock German.
  • "Orange trägt nur die Müllabfuhr" by Mickie Krause. A 2008 song, the title of which means "only the garbage collector wears orange" in German, orange being the Dutch national colour. Waste collectors in the largest cities of Germany (such as Berlin,[14] Hamburg[15] and Frankfurt[16]) do typically wear fluorescent orange overalls. However the insult is largely lost in translation as in the Netherlands garbage men wear yellow.
  • "Holland" by Joint Venture. A 2002 song, about a singer who likes the Netherlands, the Dutch, and Dutch culture except when it comes to football.
  • "Ohne Holland fahr'n wir zur WM" by the german Band Orange Buh. A 2002 song about the Netherlands not passing World-Cup qualification. The text means "Without Holland we're joining the World Cup".
  • "Schade, Deutschland, alles ist vorbei," meaning "Pity, Germany, it's all over," sang by Dutch fans after the Dutch team had reached the quarterfinals at the expense of the Germans at Euro 2004.

See also


  • Hesse-Lichtenberger, Ulrich (Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger) (2003). Tor! The Story of German Football. WSC Books. ISBN 095401345X. 
  • Schiweck, Ingo (2006). Kicken beim Feind? - Der ganz alltägliche Friede hinter dem deutsch-niederländischen Fußballkrieg. Düsseldorf: MaveriX. ISBN 978-3-9810957-4-6. 
  • Winner, David. Brilliant Orange. 
  • Houtum, Henk van; Frank van Dam (2002). "Topophilia or Topoporno? Patriotic Place Attachment in International Football Derbies". International Social Science Review 3 (2): 231–248. 
  1. ^ "10 best rivalries in international football"
  2. ^ Willem van Hanegem, M.Verkamman, ISBN 9071359034
  3. ^ a b c d Quote on Ajax-usa-website
  4. ^ Schiweck, Ingo (2006). Kicken beim Feind? - Der ganz alltägliche Friede hinter dem deutsch-niederländischen Fußballkrieg. Düsseldorf: MaveriX. ISBN 978-3-9810957-4-6.
  5. ^ "Cheeseheads vs Krauts": 30 Years of Enmity,, June 14, 2004
  6. ^ Telegraaf, 8-7-2010
  7. ^ Clip on YouTube
  8. ^ Add on YouTube
  9. ^ Add on YouTube
  10. ^ Add on Youtube
  11. ^ Add on Youtube
  12. ^ Add on Youtube
  13. ^ Add on Youtube
  14. ^ Morgenpost (Berlin):"Even the garbage in the east look different, too"
  15. ^ Hamburg City Cleaning website
  16. ^ Frankfurter Rundschau: "The Frankfurt garbage is the most expensive"

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